29 October 2013

Now with Even Less Wisdom!

Back in July, almost as soon as I returned from visiting my friend in Georgia, I ran into some maladies. The left side of my mouth was sore, for one thing. After one doctor outright told me that my problem was an unnamed infection, and not a dental matter, I discovered instead the problem was a combination of a wisdom tooth and the gum disease known as Gingivitis. Here's an X-ray that was taken in August:

You'll note that on my lower right, I'm missing a molar. That one was compromised by the wisdom tooth I had removed two years ago. That wisdom tooth on the bottom left, however, had to go. You can see some indications of bone loss already attributable to the combination of that and Gingivitis (which I'm certain I got because of all the times I mocked the commercials for dental products that referenced it). Last Wednesday, I finally had it extracted. Unlike the last one, this tooth was entirely beneath the gum line. That made for a pretty invasive procedure, as these things go. I took this selfie Thursday, about 24 hours after the extraction. You can see how asymmetrical my jawline was.
I look hungover, and I've got some kind of Tim Burton thing going on with my hair (I spent most of that first 24 hours in bed). Yes, I'm in my bathrobe there. My warm, soft bathrobe that I adore. If I ever go missing, be sure this is the photo they circulate. (And, yes, that's a door-sized Six Days, Seven Nights poster behind me.)

Yesterday, I was finally able to open my mouth enough to get more than soup broth into my system. You just don't even understand how much I love mashed potatoes. I made that remark to a few of my friends, and they each tried to suggest they loved mashed potatoes more than I do. I replied with the following photo evidence of just how long, and how enthusiastically, I have loved mashed potatoes and I'll let you decide whether you want to challenge my devotion to that food:

I'm still pretty sore, but it's a tolerable soreness. I have a pretty high threshold for pain in general, and I was fortunate that this tooth issue didn't involve any nerves. It's a far cry from the last one I had, where I felt okay the next day. Again, though, this was a more complicated extraction and I understand that.

The moral of the story, Dear Reader, is not to mock overly dramatic commercials that mention a health malady, and to never challenge my love for mashed potatoes.

Muffin was my primary caretaker through the last week. I can never predict which of the cats will be the one to watch after me when I'm recuperating from something. Every time I woke up, he was nearby. It really was a source of comfort for me.

Muffin being shy, but sweet.
My thanks to Dr. Anthony Clark and the staff at East Springs Dental. They're friendly and warm, and I heartily endorse their practice.

25 October 2013

Review: RASL

RASL by Jeff Smith

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Being a fan of Bone, I was eager to read RASL. It sort of slipped by me, though, for one reason or another, but I was happy to find the collected edition available at the library. I was quickly reminded of two Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes ("The Pegasus" and "All Good Things..."), but also of The Prestige for its characterization of Nikola Tesla. A dozen other stories also came to mind, and I confess that detracted from my enjoyment. That's not to say that RASL is un-original; there are some interesting ideas, and most of the characters are well developed. It's just that, for some reason, I'm less forgiving of stories that feel recycled when they're dealing with high concepts.

The narrative here is pretty solid, if predictable. I did enjoy that the antagonist, "Lizard Face", was motivated by extreme egocentricity that refuses to acknowledge any other universe as even being human. That's some special kind of bigotry there, folks, and it's not something that I've encountered often in such stories. Typically, it's just taken for granted that anyone who acknowledges the existence of a parallel universe accepts their legitimacy. So, yeah, I give Smith credit for doing something different there.

I did have the feeling that Smith was trying a bit too hard to distance himself from the all-ages storyteller of Bone. The instances of sex throughout RASL rarely feel organic, and the handful of swears are just as conspicuous. It just felt like he was trying too hard with those things, and that also detracted from my enjoyment of it. Not that I mind gratuitous sex or adult language; they're both to be found in my own novel, as well as quite a lot of my favorite movies, novels, comics, etc. But those two-page spreads of RASL with Annie or RASL with Maya didn't even feel like actual depictions of sex so much as Smith peppering in pin-ups. There's a sense that Smith wasn't as committed to exploring that kind of content as he thought he was when he planned those pages.

The Tesla stuff, of course, is all fascinating, and I got a personal kick out of seeing Smith's homage to Frankenstein. I recently re-watched that film on DVD. It's a personal favorite, and perceiving Smith's adoration for it endeared me more to him, to RASL, and to the story itself.

With just a little more polish, I think RASL could have been a lot stronger than it is. I understand Smith self-published, starting with a planned three issues annually, and that's a difficult schedule to maintain as writer/artist. Most parts of RASL feel pretty taut, but then there are some stray passages that seem like his mind was wandering. Reading the whole thing in a collected edition in two settings, of course, gave me a different perspective than I would have had if I had read each issue when it was originally published. Such is the nature of serialized vs. collected storytelling!

View all my reviews

06 October 2013

End of Year Two

It's hard for me to believe, but today is the second anniversary of when I nearly ended my life and instead admitted myself to Our Lady of Peace. I've borrowed two full years now. 2013 hasn't been quite as enjoyable overall as was 2012, but there have been several major highlights that stand out.

You may have noticed, Dear Reader, that I didn't write a single blog piece in all of September, though I did contribute two pieces (Criterion Commentaries on In Which We Serve and Rushmore). I haven't blogged much this summer. I'm not sure why that is. My sleep has been jacked up for months, and I'm flaring again. I haven't made it to a single movie since 25 July. There's certainly been more than enough to discuss, from trivial to politically important.

We're on day 6 of the federal government being shut down by the Tea Party (if they didn't want to own the shutdown, they shouldn't have flooded the Internet with cheers of excitement about it and acted like it was a bad thing, like everyone else in the world sees it). I don't have any real enthusiasm for discussing this debacle, but here's a screen cap from a recent Facebook discussion that I think summarizes my view nicely, and is also a solid microcosm of what's going on, and why it's going to be so hard to make any meaningful progress:

I enjoyed returning to Chicago in April with my friends to attend C2E2. In July, I visited a friend of mine I've known from the web for several years. Those few days with her were tremendous fun. I'm glad I got to spend that time with her, and I'm not just saying that because she took me to see Dr. No at the Plaza Theatre in Atlanta. Though, admittedly, that was pretty cool! I don't know what opportunity may exist for any kind of traveling or visiting with friends for next year, but I'm hopeful I can make something work, even if just for a few days. I try not to think too much about such things when I feel like I feel right now, because being anywhere other than bed or the bathroom sounds discouragingly ambitious.

I self-published Reunion at the Bluegrass Inn in August. It's been kind of neat to visit friends of mine and see a copy of my book in their respective living rooms. I've inscribed some of them, which is a little weird to do, but mostly satisfying. Ideas for my next novel have been circulating all year and I'm preparing to begin the first draft next month for NaNoWriMo. I want to hit the 50,000 word count goal by month's end, but I'm planning a lengthier book than the first so that 50k may not represent the whole story. The title is Elf Esteem and will center on a young woman named Claire who, while down on her luck, takes a job at a mall working as an elf for a Santa Claus booth. I initially conceived it as a comedy, like Reunion, but lately I've been more serious-minded and think I may explore some weightier issues. Maybe this will be my O Brother, Where Art Thou?* and I'll find out I should stick to comedy. In any event, I'm looking forward to writing again. I hope to have Elf Esteem written, revised, and ready to be published this time next year.

Beyond things I've done, the other big issue, I suppose, is how I've felt throughout this second year. Some of the anger, the fear and the pain have subsided. So, too, has some of the enthusiasm and optimism. The pendulum is settling, I suppose. I still try to raise awareness about depression, anxiety, and suicide but I don't feel as committed to it these days. Like Crohn's disease, it's part of who I am and always will be. I find myself bringing it up less frequently, though it's unavoidable in a lot of ways. One day, I might get better at balancing.

I spent most of yesterday in bed. I've been up for about three hours now and I'm drained. The Prednisone has helped with the pain but I still feel miserable, so I'm going to retreat back to bed. Not the most exciting way to celebrate such a personal anniversary, but c'est la vie. Thanks for reading, and for being part of Year Two.

*See Sullivan's Travels